"And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted — nevermore!"
-Edgar Allen Poe
In Western European culture, we know the Raven to be a symbol of loss, death and war. However, in other cultures, it is venerated as a solar and oracular symbol. In Greek mythology, he is the messenger bird of Apollo and is also linked to the Roman Cult of Mithras. In some African cultures, the Raven is a guide. In the Innuit culture, they refer to a creator god as the Raven Father and killing a Raven would bring bad weather.*
In Edgar Allen Poe's poem of The Raven, wherein, an unknown narrator confronts,denies, grieves and laments of his loss of love, Lenore (quoth the Raven, "Nevermore").
It is a wonder that in nearly every western publication for the arts and crafters (Somerset Studio is one that comes to mind), there is a sizeable amount of published art submissions from the readers that contain images of Ravens. So many of us use the raven image without even giving a thought as to why we are using it (ok, an assumption on my part). But, do we know? Yep, it's a cool image to use, no doubt.
But, I think it is worthy of self examination as to why we use it. I'd like to think that the why we use it is more in alignment with the African cultural context of a "guide". Perhaps with an added, modern meaning of, "muse". Be it my muse, your muse, or someone else's muse.
Don't you think it's interesting, though? This prolific use of the raven image in contemporary collage work? Something our art history teachers haven't caught up to yet. Perhaps, in a few decades someone will connect the dots for us!
I welcome anyone else's insight into this topic. It will be interesting to hear what others have to say.
*"The Complete Encyclopedia of Signs and Symbols: Identification and Analysis of the Visual Vocabulary That Formulates Our Thoughts and Dictates Our Reactions to the World Around Us" by Mark O'Connell and Raje Airey, Herme House, 2006.